UK govt proposes bill to deport illegal asylum seekers

The legislation contains a “rights brake”, making asylum claims by those arriving on small boats inadmissible…reports Asian Lite News

The government is expected to present on Tuesday a new bill providing for the detention and swift deportation of asylum seekers who illegally enter the country via small boats, according to media reports.

Despite Brexit-related promises to tighten control of its borders, Britain has seen a considerable uptick in such arrivals, logging a record 45,000 last year, and pressure has mounted on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to tackle the situation.

The bill to be unveiled Tuesday includes measures facilitating the detention and deportation “as soon as reasonably practicable” of asylum seekers arriving in the country illegally.

The legislation contains a “rights brake”, making asylum claims by those arriving on small boats inadmissible.

The government intends to send at least some deportees to Rwanda under a deal that was struck last year but which had never been applied after running into legal challenges. People who arrived illegally would also be barred from returning to the UK for life.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman on Sunday defended the new legislation, saying in the Sun that Britain “must stop the boats”.

“It has to be that if you come here illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed,” she said. “Our laws will be simple in their intention and practice — the only route to the UK will be a safe and legal route.”

Secretary for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, meanwhile, said stemming the flow of migrants across the English Channel also “involves proper conversations that are ongoing” with European countries to ensure would-be asylum seekers “are upheld in the first safe country that they come to”.

Sunak has made stopping the boats a flagship promise ahead of general elections, for which the opposition Labour Party currently leads in the polls.

Writing in the Sun, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the plans were “fair for those at home and those who have a legitimate claim to asylum”.

More than 45,000 people entered the UK via Channel crossings last year, up from around 300 in 2018, leading to pressure on the government to tackle the issue.

Under the new plans, the home secretary would have a duty to remove those who arrive on UK shores illegally in a small boat.

This “duty to remove” would take precedence in law over the right to claim asylum, although there would be exemptions for the under-18s and those with serious medical conditions.

Anyone removed would also not be permitted to return to the UK or seek British citizenship in future.

While the bill will not become law for several months it will apply retrospectively, meaning anyone arriving in the UK illegally from Tuesday will be at risk of deportation under the laws.

It is thought the legislation would place a duty on the home secretary to remove all those arriving on boats to Rwanda or a “safe” third country “as soon as reasonably practicable” – no matter where they had come from.

But despite a deal being reached last year, so far no migrants have been sent to Rwanda yet and any plans to do so are currently on hold after the policy was met with fierce opposition and legal interventions.

In an opinion piece for the Sun, Sunak said the UK has a “proud history of welcoming those most in need” and the new measures were “fair for those at home and those who have a legitimate claim to asylum”.

“Those arriving on small boats aren’t directly fleeing a war-torn country or facing an imminent threat to life,” he said.

“Instead, they have travelled through safe, European countries before crossing the Channel. The fact that they can do so is unfair on those who come here legally and enough is enough.”

He added that the plans would “send a clear signal that if you come to this country illegally, you will be swiftly removed” and “help break the business model of people smugglers”.

The plans have met with criticism from opposition figures and refugee groups.

Labour has said the new legislation rehashes previous plans that have not worked.

A new offence of arriving in the UK illegally was introduced in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 by the then Home Secretary Priti Patel, but has barely been used.

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